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Career gaps on your CV

By Gemma Raw

Are you returning to work as a nurse after a break to start a family, care for an elderly parent or simply recharge your batteries? Here are a few tips for explaining the gap when writing your CV.

Whatever the reason you took time out from your job as a nurse, there's no need to be embarrassed about your career break or try to cover it up. Nursing jobs are demanding, and a potential employer shouldn't see it as a negative that you needed some time to focus on other priorities in your life.

Career history – a different approach

When writing a CV, most people work backwards through their career history ie listing nursing positions they have held in reverse chronological order. To de-emphasise a career gap, why not take a different approach?

Carefully read the job description for the nursing job you're applying for and start your career history with a section focusing on the key skills you have which match this job description. Provide one or two examples from your career experience to show how you have used these skills effectively as a nurse. This approach will ensure you show the recruiter that, despite not having a full employment record, you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job well.

You can then go on to list your career history in detail. To make the career break less obvious, it's a good idea to use only years, rather than specific months and years, to show the beginning and end of each employment. However, whatever you do, don't extend any periods of employment to cover up a career gap. The recruiter may know someone who worked where you did at that time and could catch you out.

Focus on your achievements

If your career break wasn't for parenting or caring for a loved one, it's a good idea to show a potential employer what you gained from your time away from the workplace. Maybe you took the time to learn new skills or do some courses? Perhaps you did some volunteering?

What if you were ill?

If your career break was due to illness or stress, you should be honest about it. However, it's also important to show that you are fully recovered, and that you have the energy and resilience to take on new challenges. You could perhaps attach a letter from your consultant or doctor confirming that you are fully fit for work.

Brief your referee

If one of your referees is someone you worked with immediately prior to your career gap, it's worth having a chat with them to make sure they're aware of how you want them to approach the issue. It's not about asking them to hide or spin the truth. It's about making sure what they say is consistent with what's on your CV. 

Returning to nursing – professional requirements

If you're returning to work as a nurse after an extended break, you may need to re-register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), as well as updating your knowledge and skills. There's a guide from Health Education England (HEE) here and information from the NMC on returning to nursing is available here.

We have written a selection of pieces around starting and navigating your nursing career. To find your next opportunity, browse our latest nursing jobs.